Lighthouses – guardians of our coastline – over 180 of these towering structures along with more than 300 other navigational lights have been put into service in the province during the last two centuries. They have given immeasurable service to our fishermen and other mariners and are a part of our culture, especially for the vast majority of Newfoundlanders and Labradorians who have lived within sight of the ocean.
Lighthouses were traditionally manned by at least two lightkeepers who worked long hours to maintain the lights. Technology has greatly changed the operations and today many are remotely controlled and fully automated reducing the need not only for the lightkeepers but for many of the lighthouses as we know them. Several have already disappeared. The Department of Fisheries & Oceans, Canada is looking to divest itself of many lighthouses (although the Canadian Coast Guard will continue to maintain navigational components of the properties.) 69 in the province are eligible under the Heritage Lighthouse Protection Act of the Federal Government; however, by the May 29, 2012 deadline very few petitions with plans for suggested viable use of the lighthouses had been received by Parks Canada. This means that many of those lighthouses are facing removal and a part of our heritage will disappear.
In 2011, Joan Foster a member of The Rug Hooking Guild of Newfoundland and Labrador, suggested a project to pay tribute to these well-loved landmarks through the art of rug hooking. The Executive agreed and a call for submissions, to be ready by Rug Camp 2012, went out to members. A total of 41 hooked pieces were brought to Camp in August, varying in style from realistic to folk art and in size from quite small to a large 22″ x 46″ piece. Another four pieces were added over the year for a total of 45 lighthouse rugs. An accompanying binder documented each piece with a picture of the original lighthouse, information on the piece as well as an artist’s statement by the matmaker. From comments in the guestbook, many of the people who viewed the display were amazed by the ingenuity and the quality of work done by members of our Guild. Comments included “Unbelievable work!”, “Fabulous!”, “Fantastic!” “This is painting with fabric and yarn.”
The display of lighthouse mats then toured the province for a year. It went first to the Twillingate Museum, each of the Arts & Culture Centres in the province as follows: Grand FallsWindsor, Gander, Labrador City, Stephenville, Corner Brook, and St. John’s. It was at the House of Diamonds in Glovertown, the Lester Garland House in Trinity, and at the Art Gallery, Seldom on Fogo Island during the summer of 2013. Special openings, demonstrations and hookins were held at each of these sites. A final display was held at the Twin Ponds Rug Camp in August, 2013 after which pieces were returned to their owners. A DVD of the exhibit was produced and sold throughout the year. As well, an article will appear in the November/ December 2013 issue of Rug Hooking magazine and pictures of all the fantastic lighthouse mats will be posted on the magazine’s website as well as at this location at that time. Be sure to check back for another look at that time.
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